Army pre-deployment training consists of physical exercise, tactical planning and technical training designed to prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat. The majority of Army pre-deployment training takes place at a soldier's home duty station. However, deploying soldiers are required to train for up to four weeks at the Army's National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA. Training is conducted under harsh desert conditions and is designed to simulate combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fort Irwin is situated in the Mojave Desert. Weather conditions are similar to those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and soldiers become acclimatized to desert weather during training. Members of the military and civilians are hired by the Army to act as oppositional forces (OP-FORs) to simulate combat situations for training purposes. OP-FORs dress, speak and behave like local nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan to ease soldiers' transition to a combat environment.
Soldiers spend three to four weeks at NTC conducting Army pre-deployment training. Week one is spent preparing for rigorous training which takes place during weeks two and three. Weeks two and three consist of soldiers setting up makeshift campsites, sleeping in trucks and conducting live-fire training and participating in simulated combat situations. Week four is dedicated to administrative paperwork, clean-up and shipping of training materials back to soldiers' home stations.
Fort Irwin spans over 642,000 acres of the Mojave Desert and can accommodate several Army brigades at one time. During training periods, NTC may house up to 5,000 soldiers.
Soldiers conducting Army pre-deployment training at NTC are at risk for dehydration, snake and spider bites and scorpion stings. There is little protection from sun, wind or temperature change. Daytime temperatures may soar into the 120-degree range while nighttime temperatures drop into the 50's during summer months. Average winter temperatures range from 8 to 70 degrees.
Soldiers conducting Army pre-deployment training at NTC participate in convoy live-fire ranges, mountain-side ruck marches, extended runs (in excess of 8 miles) and set up camp at various locations in the Mojave Desert. Soldiers are subjected to random day- and nighttime assaults by OP-FORs designed to simulate real-time combat situations.
- dog tags image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com